Spirit Airlines says it’s focusing on guest comfort with its latest airplane seats, and the middle-seat passenger will actually have a slight space advantage.
The airline recently debuted its new seats and says the middle passenger seat will be 18 inches in width versus the aisle and window passenger seats, which are 17 inches in width.
The new seats also have thicker padding, ergonomically-designed lumbar support and additional pre-recline, the airline said.
“These innovative enhancements allow for a wider range of healthy postures and movements, offering an additional two inches of usable legroom compared to industry-standard flatback seats with the same pitch. The new, softer seats include a full-size tray table and an elevated literature pocket,” Spirit said in a news release.
Spirit will start installing the seats in November and the process will continue through 2020 for all new Spirit planes.
“Pre-recline” is a buzzword in the airline industry — it just means seats don’t stand completely upright and have some recline built in so that you cannot recline them further. Spirit says the exit rows will have even more pre-recline than other rows of seating on its airplanes.
You see pre-reclined seats more often on low-cost airlines like Spirit, which find that they reduce conflict between passengers. They are more lightweight than adjustable seats and take up slightly less space.
Spirit’s new seats, with lightweight foam and a composite skeleton, are made to be more comfortable without adding weight. This helps the airplanes maintain high fuel efficiency.
“Last year I signed a pledge to look at every facet of our guest experience and determine where we could improve,” said Ted Christie, Spirit Airlines’ president and chief executive officer, in the release. “This investment in our seats and onboard experience is a direct result of that commitment, and it also allows us to enhance our product value while maintaining our industry-leading cost structure.”
The airline is also adding more comfort to its “Big Front Seats,” which make it up its version of first class. These seats, which offer an 18.5″ width, will now have improved headrests. They are said to provide more thigh support as well because of their memory-foam design.
In the airline’s announcement, Christie explains that current metrics for comfort are misleading, and that terms like “seat pitch” are outdated and misunderstood. With the new seats, he said, more usable leg room results from smart design.
An advocacy group called Flyer Rights says most airlines reduced their seat widths to 17 inches to save space to be able to add more seating. More seating means each flight has the potential to earn more money.
Customers are certainly feeling cramped. See how airline seats have changed in this YouTube video from Business Insider:
Legroom, which is affected by the recline or pitch of seats, was once as much as 35 inches, but has been reduced to 31 inches and even as little as 28 inches by some airlines. That move allows for more seating in limited space, which lets airlines to make more money per flight.